WNPS Monthly Lecture
Crocodile Psychosis; Crocodiles in Archaeology, History, Folklore, Traditional Medicine and Human-Crocodile Conflict
by Dr Anslem de Silva
October 15 2020, 6 pm at the Jasmine Hall, BMICH
Often called living dinosaurs crocodiles can be called one of the most successful as a species living on Planet Earth today as they have existed virtually unchanged for the past 65 million years. Crocodiles are also the largest reptile in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is known as one of the best places to watch mugger crocs in all of Asia.
For the first time, we are excited to present to you a lecture by Sri Lanka’s own ‘Crocodile Dundee’ on five aspects of crocodiles of Sri Lanka:
1. Crocodiles in Sri Lankan archeology and history: Find out how the fossil of an extinct crocodile was discovered, crocodile tooth ornaments from the 4th century ACE, a world map of Sri Lanka from 1290 ACE depicting 2 crocodiles as well as many other interesting information that you maybe hearing for the first time.
2. Traditional medicine: Discover unusual traditional treatment techniques used in the event of crocodile attacks including a ‘protection’ used for crocodile attacks in the 14th century
3. Crocodiles in Sri Lanka – How to identify the two crocodile species on the island, interesting accounts of communal fishing & Crocodile Houses or ‘Kimbul gewal’
4. Human Crocodile Conflict: Even though the Human Elephant Conflict (HEC) takes centerstage in relation to Human Animal Conflicts in Sri Lanka, the Human Crocodile Conflict is also a serious issue which is often not adequately addressed. Find out details about interesting crocodile attacks, how crocodiles ‘plan’ its attacks drawn from Sri Lanka’s first island wide survey and more importantly, how to escape from a crocodile grip, should you ever be in the unfortunate situation of being attacked by a croc!
5. Importance of crocodiles: Discover where the most powerful antibiotics come from and how crocodile blood is used to treat anemia and many other aspects of the importance of crocodiles.
Dr. Anslem de Silva
Dr. Anslem de Silva is the current Regional Chairman of the Crocodile Specialist Group IUCN/SSC for South Asia and Iran. He has worked extensively on reptiles and amphibians of Sri Lanka for nearly sixty years and has to his credit, nearly 500 publications on various aspects of herpetology – this include nearly 60 books, and chapters in prestigious publications (some published abroad in UK, India). He organized the World Crocodile Conference in Negombo in 2013. He has published dozens of research papers on our crocodiles, including the 254 page comprehensive book on Sri Lanka’s crocodiles, in 2013. He conducted the first island wide survey on human-crocodile conflict, including on crocodile burrows. In 2007 he was the consultant for WWF/American Red Cross Partnership on crocodile conflict in Nilwala Mathara, also Consultant to developing an action plan for mitigation of Human-Crocodile Conflict in the Andaman Islands, organized by the Wildlife Institute of India in 2018. Currently he is working on the Mugger Crocodile Crocodylus palustris Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan for the IUCN/CSG.
In recognition of his contributions towards herpetology of the country the IUCN/SSC awarded the highest award Sir Peter Scot Award of Conservation Merit, 9th October, 2019, the first and only Sri Lankan to receive this award.
The WNPS lecture is open to all, Entrance Free.
New Look Chagall
Gerald Solomons is a veteran hairdresser and stylist, he not only loves doing hair, but loves relationship he builds with his clients. He honed his skills and passion to make clients look and feel glamorous. He prides himself on listening to his clients’ needs to create personalised and gorgeous hair colour and styles while always keeping the integrity of their hair his top priority.
Breast cancer awareness; a simple needle test goes a long way in saving lives
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women across the globe. National cancer incidence data (Sri Lanka) has shown, a significant increase in the number of breast cancer patients. The peak incidence of breast cancer is between 50 – 58 years of age (can vary from country to country).
1. Age – Peak incidence of breast cancer is between 50 – 58 years of age. The incidence of breast cancer decreases after 60 years. Breast cancer is uncommon in women less than 30 years of age.
2. Family history – Women who have a first-degree relative with breast carcinoma have a two to three times higher risk of getting t
he disease than that of the general population.
3. Genetic mutations – Germline mutations of BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are associated with an increased risk of having breast cancer.
4. Menstrual and reproductive history – Increased risk is correlated with early menarche (beginning of menstrual cycles), nulliparity, late age at first birth and late menopause.
5. Exogenous oestrogen – Exogenous oestrogen is considered as a risk factor of breast cancer.
6. Ionizing radiation – An increased risk of breast cancer has been documented with exposure to ionizing radiation.
7. Alcohol consumption
8. Cigarette smoking
10. Lack of physical exercise
However, in most cases a definitive cause for breast cancer cannot be identified. It is important to know that you can get breast cancer without having any of the above mentioned risk factors. Why it happened and how it happened may not be clear at all times. Do not blame yourself, it is not due to your fault. It can happen to anyone… rich or poor, big or small, black or white. Do not let breast cancer destroy your life. If you come early the disease can be controlled. Be knowledgeable about the symptoms of breast cancer. If you feel something is not right, without taking it lightly resort to medical advice.
There is a wide range of symptoms that can vary from person to person
Breast lump (usually painless), hardness or thickening
Skin changes that include swelling, redness, pitting (skin of an orange), scaling or any other noticeable change
An increase in the size or change in the shape of the breast
Changes in the appearance of the nipple (s), peeling of skin over the nipple
Discharge from the nipple (other than milk)
Pain in any part of the breast
Lumps/ swelling in the arm pit
However, it is important to understand that early breast cancer may not show any of the above symptoms. You may not feel a lump at all. Only way to detect early cancer is by a screening method and currently the widely acknowledged approach has been screening mammography. By this screening method unsuspected lumps in asymptomatic women can be identified. Breast cancer screening using mammograms is a well- established program in the developed world. Women over 45-50 years of age are recommended for screening. The cut off age for screening can vary from country to country. If there is a strong family history of breast cancer (or any other significant risk factor) screening will be offered at an earlier age. Mammogram exposes the breasts to a small amount of radiation. Benefits of breast screening by mammogram are far too many. We do not have a national breast cancer screening programme yet, but it will come in to place in the near future.
There is a simple needle test (fine needle aspiration cytology technique) that can be done as a first line investigation for breast lumps. It is a minimally invasive procedure with hardly any complications. It is cost effective and the results can be obtained quickly. Needle test can give a clue as to the nature of the lump. Sometimes the needle test results can be inconclusive. In those instances, further investigations will be done to confirm the diagnosis.
A plunge of three decades and more
Sri Lanka Sub Aqua Club credited for producing some of country’s top divers, several of them internationally recognized today, turns 35
by Randima Attygalle
Piling the diving gear into their cars and filling the empty seats with fellow divers, the founder members of the Sri Lanka Sub Aqua Club (SLSAC) in its formative years would head south to Hikkaduwa or Galle. They would fill their cylinders with a compressor, cast their own lead weights from lead pipes bought in Panchikawatte and purchase second-hand equipment whenever they appeared in the market. As the Founder Chairman of the Club, veteran diver, Dr. Malik Fernando recollects more than three decades later, “those who were fortunate enough to travel abroad brought back accessories and sold them at cost and we even serviced our own regulators.”
The Sri Lanka Sub-Aqua Club was formed in 1985 by a group of diving enthusiasts led by the marine biologist, Dr. M.W.R.N de Silva (Dr. Ranjith de Silva). What was envisaged by the Club says Dr. Fernando was to train Sri Lankans in SCUBA diving for both recreation and more importantly, for scientific research. He was supported by Arjan Rajasuriya, presently the Coordinator, Coastal and Marine Programme, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Sri Lanka Country Office. The idea of the Club germinated in the mind of the founder, Dr. Ranjith de Silva following his establishment of the Coral Unit at the National Aquatic Resources and Research Agency (NARA). The core group consisted of a few British Sub Aqua (BSAC) qualified divers such as Dr. Fernando, himself and those who have been involved in various diving-related pursuits.
The SLSAC, modelled on the BSAC, had produced several internationally reputed divers along its 35-year journey. The SLSAC-certified divers are today recognized by many local recreational dive stations. “Although we sought to form a branch of the BSAC once we got established, the cost was prohibitive, thus we initiated our independent certification scheme,” notes its founder chairman. The Club’s training courses, Dr. Fernando recollects, were very popular and many divers were trained by senior members. “However, it was eventually recognised that the BSAC curriculum was too comprehensive, too time consuming and too detailed for beginners. With the popularisation of the compact PADI course that a number of us followed, the club curriculum was modified and simplified changing from a BSAC model to a PADI model, with much less theory and drills reduced to basic essentials. The instruction was still by club members, some of whom had BSAC qualification and experience in instructing in their original clubs. We were only able to give a club certification, but after we had established our credentials by producing well trained divers, that certification came to be recognised by some of the recreational dive stations.”
The SLSAC was also one of the chief catalysts in driving the now well-established Maritime Archaelogy Unit (MAU) in Galle, and the contribution made by the Club members towards its expansion is notable. Recovery of several porcelain and glass artefacts by them from the shipwrecks lying in Galle spurred this initiative, says Dr. Fernando. Further, th
e club has also contributed to maritime archaeology and preservation of artefacts by contributing to the establishment of a shipwreck database and actively lobbying against shipwreck salvaging, especially of ancient shipwrecks.
A medical doctor, Fernando attributes his ‘physician gene’ to his illustrious father, Dr. Cyril Fernando and his penchant for nature to his artistic mother. An adventurous family, they would seize every opportunity to travel out of Colombo fuelling the budding physician-cum diver son’s exploring spirits. Taking to water at the age of seven, young Malik’s imagination was fired by the National Geographic Magazine. With a pair of flippers and a second-hand mask he would head towards Mount Lavinia and recollect his earliest experience of Hikkaduwa as “going deep down into an aquarium.” Further inspired by the celebrated diver Rodney Jonklaas, a family acquaintance as well, the freshly graduated doctor would spend more time diving than passing his higher exams in the UK!
“Today the greater accent is on tuition and passing exams with little emphasis on sports and even if children do engage in sports, it is largely for competition. Sadly the value of sports as a leisure activity and a health gain is largely undermined today,” observes Dr. Fernando who urges school authorities to take more interest in water-sports. “Learning to swim and dive is only means to an end. Not only can a person discover new places but he/she can also become a partner is conservation,” says the expert diver who has walked the talk. Encouraging the budding swimmers and divers to become partners of the marine eco-system true to the mandate of the Club, Dr. Fernando urges them to rally around it in a bid to produce ‘responsible’ divers with scientific insights.
“Diving enables connectivity with the entire eco-system from which we are sadly very detached right now. It provides one of the best windows to the polluted environment, for which man is responsible,” reflects Wishwamithra Kadurugamuwa, present President of the Club. The monthly ‘sharing of knowledge’ exercise initiated by the Club facilitates this process, he adds. The experience and stories of the experienced divers shared on this platform inspire the younger members, he says. “For us, diving is much more than sight-seeing, it is about moulding divers who would perceive things scientifically,” says Kadurugamuwa who is a corporate lawyer .
The ‘Citizen Science Project’ which was launched by the Club early this year in collaboration with the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) is a progressive move which provides the divers a portal to document their dives. The exercise is envisaged to be a vehicle of future research and a facilitator in conservation. “The end purpose of this endeavour is to have a record after each dive as to where the reefs are dying, the extent of the damage, how can they be salvaged etc. To record all this, divers need to perceive through a scientific lens for which training is provided by experts,” said Kadurugamuwa.
The opportunities within the marine eco-system which lay before an island nation such as ours are enormous, yet hardly tapped, he noted. He cites water sports and newer tourism products such as shipwreck tourism in this regard. “Sadly there is not much attention paid to the marine environment in the magnitude it ought to happen,” adding that entangled fishing nets, empty plastic bottles and yoghurt cups floating besides the coral reefs do not support the idyllic picture any underwater explorer would want to see. The Club’s intervention to clean fishing nets entangled on coral reefs and lobbying for legislation against unethical fishing practices are moves towards realizing a sustainable marine environment.
Dynamite fishing and spear-fishing are very destructive forms of fishing and whilst there is active legislation prohibiting dynamite fishing, it is practiced widely and the club has played a very active role in reporting infractions to authorities leading to curtail of such activity. In addition the club was instrumental in bringing about legislation to prohibit spear-fishing in Sri Lanka – again a very destructive practice as spear fishermen in SCUBA gear have caused localized extinction of key species.
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